US intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was most likely directly involved in the hacking campaign that targeted Democratic Party officials and organizations during the US presidential election, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Two of the unnamed intelligence officials cited by NBC News pointed to new evidence they say shows Putin directed the distribution of hacked emails and information from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
WikiLeaks regularly published leaked documents in the weeks leading up to Election Day. WikiLeaks and other organizations also published other communications embarrassing to Democrats and Clinton at various points during the campaign.
Putin’s goal, according to NBC News’ sources, was to undermine and discredit America as a global leader and hurt Clinton.
The Russian president sought to “make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal Democratic order,” Michael McFaul, the ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, told NBC News.
“And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump’s views on Russia,” he added.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the report on Thursday as “laughable nonsense.”
Last week, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported findings from the CIA that suggested Russia tried to help Trump win the election through its hacking of Democratic Party organizations. The Republican Party was also hacked, those reports said, but no information was leaked. The RNC has denied it was hacked.
According to those reports, intelligence officials had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who they said gave WikiLeaks the hacked information, but their connection to Putin was not certain.
But now, officials say they have “a high level of confidence” regarding Putin’s involvement, NBC News reported.
The CIA and the FBI are at odds over motivations for the breach. But in an interview with Business Insider on Wednesday night, cybersecurity expert and Chief Technology Officer of Tinfoil Security Michael Borohovski said “the CIA is not a group of dopes.”
“They would not have said that without a significant amount of research going into it thus far,” he said, adding, “There was already a significant suspicion about this in the past.”
The FBI last month said it found no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians, despite the president-elect’s apparent affinity for Putin – whom he has praised extensively during and after the campaign – and despite Trump’s unprecedented direct appeal to Russia in July, when he openly invited Russian hackers to find and publish Clinton’s deleted emails.
In October, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic Party organizations.
Trump and his surrogates have scoffed at the notion that Russia may have meddled in the election. Nevertheless, there is growing bipartisan support for a full accounting of the matter.
A group of electors within the Electoral College has requested a briefing on Russia’s alleged interference. The group meets Monday to officially certify the results of the election.
The FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to requests for comment.